Alright. So the playoffs are pretty much upon us, another pretty damn successful season in the books, and the real struggle is about to begin. So far we seem to be focused on things going into this -- the lackluster post-Olympic play, the faltering defense, the bad run of playoff outings in the past ... a lot of Negative Nancy bull, if ya ask me. I say, it's time to discard all the crap; after all, if the regular season "doesn't matter," then a few weeks stretch in that time doesn't, for sure. No, it's time now to get pumped, get crazy, get cocky and forego "Is This the Year?" for "This IS the Year!"
Look around at the other teams in the West. Many of them have faltered since the Olympics. The standings have changed dramatically in that short span, after a season of building themselves into something almost logical. The Avalanche, after an amazing year of come-from-nowhere rockin' play, are now fighting for their postseason lives. The Flames are edged out of the mix. Phoenix is contending for the Pacific Division. The Ducks and Stars are both languishing just outside the Cool Kid's Club. Nothing makes any sense.
Every season, there are 30 teams in the NHL. Every season, 29 of them fail to win the Stanley Cup. 14 of them fail to even get a chance at the road to glory, as the 8 best from East and West duke it out amongst themselves to find their champions, who represent them in the Finals. Every year, only one team can go all the way.
So why would we be down on the Sharks for failing to be that one team, every year? Look at the teams that have fallen even further; the basement-dwellers who haven't cracked the playoffs several years in a row. The old teams, steeped in tradition, on a Cup drought longer than the Sharks have even been around. Where are their fans? Oh, they're standing by their teams. They're reveling in the small victories, pressing for that slim chance to even see their team try and make it to the top. They're getting cocky and surrounding themselves in fervor and Must-Win culture.
Sure, you say, they don't have the history of failing that the Sharks do. They don't have the issues that we see in our boys down the last stretch -- that's just a lie. Every team has difficult points. Every team has weaknesses. Every team has fans that will cry that the sky is falling when their top goal scorer goes on a drought, or when their star defender seems to keep slipping the puck to the other team. Our situation is not unique; more importantly, it is not catastrophic.
Nobody can say what the playoffs will bring, but of this, I can be sure: I will not adopt the doubt and cautiousness that seems to be sweeping the fanbase. No, I will be unabashedly optimistic. I will be the fan that goes all in and truly believes. I will be the one who says we can still do it if the Sharks drop 3-0 in a series. I will sacrifice my sanity, my pride, and my ego if they fail, but these things are immaterial and I will gladly put them in the pot to place my bets on the Sharks.
I respect that many fans that have been following the team longer than I are done with this rosy outlook, but I will pick up where they left off. It's on me, the newcomer, to be truly apart from the past hurts that have left so many fans jaded, since I was not there, and therefore allow myself to really, honestly, and truly believe in this team. If that means I'm pulling all my weight only to be disappointed -- well, I'd rather be disappointed in the Sharks than any other team. And that's all that matters to me.